Environment & Weather
Endangered Species Recovery Champions Announced PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Georgia Parham   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:18
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced recipients of the 2011 Recovery Champion award, which honors Service employees and partners for outstanding efforts to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species of fish, wildlife, and plants. Among the honorees is Dr. Carol Bocetti of the California University of Pennsylvania, who leads the recovery team for the endangered Kirtland’s warbler.

A total of 56 teams and nine individuals were honored as Recovery Champions for work to conserve species ranging from the polar bear in Alaska to the Appalachian elktoe mussel and spotfin chub in North Carolina.

“Recovery Champions are helping listed species get to the point at which they are secure in the wild and no longer need Endangered Species Act protection,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “These groups and individuals have done amazing work in helping to bring dozens of species back from the brink of extinction, while improving habitat that benefits many other species and local communities.”

Dr. Bocetti was recognized for her work with the Kirtland’s warbler, an endangered songbird found only in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario.  Dr. Bocetti’s  research and recovery initiatives have been a key factor in the growth of the warbler population from near record lows of  about 200 pairs during the mid-1980s to the current estimate of  more than 1,700 pairs, surpassing recovery goals.   Her research also documented the link between the size of jack pine stands – the warbler’s nesting habitat - and warbler productivity.

A member of the Kirtland’s warbler recovery team since 1998, Dr. Bocetti became the team leader in 2006. Working with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, the U. S. Forest Service, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others, she spearheaded efforts to develop a conservation strategy and commitment to managing habitat, a significant step toward recovery and long-term conservation of the species.

“Thanks to Dr. Bocetti’s leadership and dedication, Kirtland’s warblers are making strides toward recovery,” said Tom Melius, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest Regional Director. “That is a remarkable achievement for a species that was once on the brink of extinction.”

From the bull trout in Washington, Oregon, and Montana to the red-cockaded woodpecker in Florida, Alabama and Texas, Recovery Champions are taking action to benefit these species. Service employees and partners, including federal and state conservation agencies, tribes, universities, conservation organizations, private landowners, and zoos and botanic gardens, are making a difference through activities such as removing dams so that anadromous fish can reach their spawning grounds, restoring longleaf pine forests in the Southeast, and reintroducing an endangered bird species into its historical range.

For example, the Turner Endangered Species Fund (TESF) is being recognized for its work in endangered species recovery programs over several decades. Numerous species across multiple states have greatly benefitted from TESF’s continued support over the years and are on the road to recovery thanks in large part to these efforts, such as the black-footed ferret, red-cockaded woodpecker, Chiricahua leopard frog and Northern Aplomado falcon.

Notably, the TESF has been active and supportive in gray wolf recovery in the United States, both in the Northern Rocky Mountains and in the Southwest. Since 1997, the Ladder Ranch Wolf Management Facility, located on R.E. Turner’s Ladder Ranch in south-central New Mexico and operated by TESF is one of the program’s three primary captive pre-release facilities and has been instrumental in housing and selectively breeding Mexican wolves for release to the wild.

Also this year, National Wildlife Refuges from Maine through Virginia are being honored for conserving more than 250 breeding pairs of piping plovers on refuge, state, municipal and private lands.

In the West, the Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Initiative, comprised of more than 22 organizations, after creating a strategy for needed actions such as best management practices for oil and gas development, is working with the industry to implement the practices.

And in an unusual accomplishment, a team of biologists, avian husbandry experts and veterinarians captured wild Nihoa millerbirds, insect-eating songbirds on the Hawaiian island of Nihoa, and translocated them to Laysan Island, restoring Millerbirds to the island after an absence of 100 years.

Restoring streams, releasing listed species into their historical ranges, and conducting field surveys and monitoring programs are among the diversity of initiatives by this year’s Recovery Champions. What began in Fiscal Year 2002 as a one-time award for Service staff members for achievements in conserving listed species was reactivated in 2007 and expanded to honor Service partners as well,  recognizing their essential role in the recovery of threatened and endangered species.

For information about the 2011 Recovery Champions, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/recovery-champions/index.html.

For more information about recovery efforts for the Kirtland’s warbler, visit www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered

America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the health of imperiled species is a shared responsibility. To learn more about the Service’s Endangered Species program, go to http://www.fws.gov/endangered/

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.


In Iowa’s Interest: Staying Safe in Unpredictable Weather PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Friday, 23 March 2012 10:33

by Senator Tom Harkin

Earlier this month, tornadoes wreaked havoc is multiple Midwestern states. Most notably, small towns in Indiana, Kansas, and Kentucky were hit by monstrous storms that caused severe destruction. Seeing the aftermath of these storms, I was reminded of the risks that tornadoes and severe weather pose to small towns.

In 1993, I was chief sponsor of legislation greatly broadening what is now called the Federal Emergency Managements Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The program and its more recent modifications have provided significant funding to states to undertake risk mitigation projects that help protect communities from future natural disasters. These investments help to improve the structural integrity of key infrastructure and buildings to enhance safety and reduce costly repairs that result from destructive storms, like flooding and high winds from tornadoes.

Knowing how to protect yourself and your family, however, during a storm is an absolute necessity. With the unusually warm and mild winter and an increase in severe storms already this spring, dangerous weather could hit Iowa earlier than normal.

Always remember that the safest place to be is in an underground shelter, basement or safe room. If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.

Here are some further safety tips that can help to keep you and your family safe, provided by the National Weather Service:
• Go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately.
• Do not wait until you see the tornado. If you are caught outdoors and cannot make it to a shelter, seek secure cover in a basement, shelter, or sturdy building.

If flying debris occurs while you are driving: pull over, park, and follow these instructions:
• Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering it with your hands and a blanket if possible.
• If you can safely get lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

Regarding mobile homes:
• Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes or other severe winds.
• Do not seek shelter in a hallway or bathroom of a mobile home.
• If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, abandon your mobile home immediately.

With these tips, I hope you all stay safe and secure whenever a storm is near.

For more information on safety during a severe storm, please visit the national weather service at www.weather.gov, my website at www.harkin.senate.gov, or feel free to call any of my offices in Iowa or Washington, D.C.

A PDF version of the column is available by clicking here.

Statement from Governor Pat Quinn On State’s Efforts to Secure Federal Assistance for Harrisburg Tornado PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Monday, 19 March 2012 12:31

SPRINGFIELD - March 12, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today issued the following statement regarding the state’s efforts to secure federal assistance for people affected by the Feb. 29 tornado.


“Today I spoke with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and informed her that we intend to appeal FEMA’s denial of our request for much-needed individual assistance for the people of Southern Illinois. I urged Secretary Napolitano to reconsider FEMA's decision.  We are doing everything possible at the state level to help these devastated communities, but some of the assistance that our residents need to begin rebuilding their lives is only available through a federal disaster declaration.


“I met with local officials, spent time with residents and saw firsthand the devastation and damage caused by the tornado in Southern Illinois. FEMA underestimated the impact this deadly tornado had on small towns like Harrisburg and Ridgway. We have already begun work on our appeal of this decision in order to secure federal assistance.


“I am grateful to Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Mark Kirk and the Illinois Congressional Delegation for their vigorous support of our efforts to bring assistance to the people whose lives were ripped apart by the Feb. 29 tornado. We are hopeful our joint efforts will help FEMA understand that a full recovery from this disaster cannot happen without their support.”



Governor Quinn Requests Federal Assistance for Five Southern Illinois Counties PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Andrew Mason   
Monday, 19 March 2012 11:00

Federal Disaster Declaration Would Help People, Businesses

Recover from Tornadoes, Severe Storms


SPRINGFIELD – March 7, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today asked President Barack Obama to declare five Southern Illinois counties major disaster areas to help people and businesses recover from devastating tornadoes and severe storms that struck the area Feb. 29. Counties requested include Gallatin, Randolph, Saline, Union and Williamson.


“We need federal aid in order to help these communities recover, which is why we worked to document the damage and submit this request for federal assistance,” Governor Quinn said. “I ask President Obama to approve this request that will help the people of Southern Illinois recover from this devastating storm.”


Earlier this week, damage assessment teams from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and affected communities documented the extent of damage to homes and businesses. That assessment found that 104 homes were destroyed by severe storms and tornadoes; 50 suffered major damage, and 276 others also were seriously damaged.


In addition, 10 businesses in Saline County sustained major damage, while 23 others were also affected by the storms.


If Governor Quinn’s request is approved, residents in the approved counties would be eligible to apply for grants and low-interest SBA loans. Affected businesses would be also able to apply for low-interest SBA loans.


Representatives from IEMA and FEMA will meet with local government officials beginning March 12 to document expenses related to the tornadoes and storms, including emergency protective measures, debris removal, and repair or replacement of roads, bridges and other public facilities. That information could be used to support a request for federal assistance to help state and local governments recoup 75 percent of eligible flood-related expenses.



EPA Provides $15 Million to Help Small Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems Across the Country PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Cathy Milbourn   
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 13:11

Funding will help small systems better serve local communities

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it will provide up to $15 million in funding for training and technical assistance to small drinking and wastewater systems, defined as systems that serve fewer than 10,000 people, and private well owners. The funding will help provide water system staff with training and tools to enhance system operations and management practices, and supports EPA’s continuing efforts to protect public health, restore watersheds and promote sustainability in small communities.


Most of the funding, up to $14.5 million, will provide training and technical assistance to small public water systems to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and to small publicly-owned wastewater systems, communities served by on-site systems, and private well owners to improve water quality.


More than 97 percent of the nation’s 157,000 public water systems serve fewer than 10,000 people, and more than 80 percent of these systems serve fewer than 500 people. Many small systems face unique challenges in providing reliable drinking water and wastewater services that meet federal and state regulations. These challenges can include a lack of financial resources, aging infrastructure, management limitations and high staff turnover.


EPA expects to make available up to $500,000 to provide training and technical assistance to tribally-owned and operated public water systems.


Applications must be received by EPA by April 9, 2012. EPA expects to award these cooperative agreements by Summer 2012. For more information about these competitive announcements, visit:



For more information on EPA’s programs and tools to help small water systems, visit:


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